Five more New Brunswickers have died of COVID-19 and the number of active hospitalizations has increased, the province announced Tuesday in its weekly update.
Between July 10 and July 16, 30 people were admitted to hospital with the virus — double the 15 new hospitalizations reported last week.
The number of active hospitalizations sits at 22, an increase of five from last week.
Three of the people who died were in their 70s and two were in their 80s, the weekly COVIDWATCH report said.
“The highest portion of hospitalizations for COVID-19 is among individuals aged 70-89,” the report said. “Individuals that are unprotected by vaccine continue to have the highest rate of hospitalization for COVID-19 and death.”
The province also reported a decline in new positive PCR and rapid COVID-19 tests from the previous week. During the latest reporting period, there were 1,004 confirmed PCR positive tests — down from the 1,044 reported the previous week — and 1,320 positive rapid tests, down from 1,421.
However, the number of new positive PCR and rapid tests are still more than double what they were a month ago. In the week of June 12 to June 18, there were just 425 new positive PCR tests and 403 rapid tests.
There are now an estimated 1,506 active COVID-19 cases in the province, an increase of the 1,382 reported last week.
Dr. Yves Leger, the deputy chief medical officer of health, said it might not be the full picture, as rapid tests are self-reported.
“We know that what we’re seeing in terms of numbers is really not the reality, the actual number of cases is probably many times higher, but what it does tell us is that activity is increasing and there for there is higher risk to be public right now,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.
Leger said there are no plans to re-introduce any mandates but said the public can still use all the tools like masking and vaccination in order to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19 within the community.
“Aside from the mandate question, really what remains, is Public Health still strongly recommends to New Brunswickers to continue to adopt those measures,” he said.
“Especially right now. That’s really the main message I want to drive home right, now is the most important time to adhere to the measures we’ve all learned and are relatively simple to apply.
“If you’re going out in public, especially indoors, wear a mask.”
One week ago, former president and CEO Dr. John Dornan warned his staff in a memo of the increased transmission of the virus within the community.
He said the PCR positivity rate had doubled in two weeks from 10 per cent to 20 per cent. COVID incidence, he explained, had gone from 60 per 100,000 to 129 per 100,000.
Dornan appealed in his memo for health care workers to act as an example while out in the public, encouraging them to wear a mask.
“Please stay safe and take time to recharge,” he wrote in the memo, one day before he was let go by Premier Blaine Higgs.
According to the province, the highly contagious BA.5 subvariant of Omicron is growing as the dominant strain in New Brunswick.
Out of the most recent random samples sequenced for COVID-19, 57 per cent were the BA.5 subvariant — up from 45 per cent last week. At the end of June, for comparison, the subvariant made up just 18 per cent of the samples.
As well, according to the latest update, 22 per cent of the samples were the BA.4 subvariant and the remaining 21 per cent were the BA.2.
The report said 93.3 per cent of New Brunswickers have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, 88.3 per cent have had two doses and 53 per cent have had a booster dose.
Last week, the province said it is lowering the age of eligibility for second COVID-19 booster doses to 18, because the province is seeing increased case numbers and signs of “heightened activity.”
Second booster doses — which would be a fourth shot of a vaccine — will be available at pharmacies and some public health clinics. Anyone aged 18 and older can get their second booster, if five months have passed since the last dose.